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*Feathures photo: Force of Nature, Trevarez 2022, copyright Raija Jokinen

Raija Jokinen, a Finnish-born textile artist, trained at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki, Finland and received her Master of Arts degree in 1990.

With a practice rooted in textile disciplines but stemming from the synthesis of multiple techniques, a meeting point between sculpture, textile art, graphic design and handmade paper, Jokinen’s works, ethereal, transparent, almost intangible figures, explore the relationship between matter and spirit, body and mind and refer to the complex relationship existing between man and nature.

From the beginning of his career to the present, Jokinen’s works have been shown in more than two hundred group and solo exhibitions around the world, have received prestigious prizes and awards, and are part of important public and private collections.

Bright Thoughts-detail, 2014, copyright Raija Jokinen

What was the path that contributed to your artistic formation? Why the choice of the textile medium?

In my childhood years I was drawing a lot and making things with my hands. It was kind of self evident and natural to me. At that time, on 60’s, people also made many things at home as availability of eg clothes were limited and we didn’t live in the center of a city nor could we afford buying that much of things. I saw how clothes and household textiles and other things were made at home. Textiles appealed to me with their feel, structures and colors.

My way of thinking was, and still is, that textiles are an answer and a solution to all kind of situations. They were also valuable to me. Still are, I don’t want to throw away textiles. As they are valuable to me, I wanted to make jewelry by using fiber materials and started to experiment with flax, sisal and bast fibers around 1981-2. That was a start but I forgot my first pieces for some years when I studied and got interested in knitted structures. When I graduated 1990 it was deep recession and very difficult to find a job. I turned to my storage of materials and samples and started to develop brooches of flax. They were tiny but time taking to make and didn’t give much of income. I got some part-time teaching opportunities on knitting and beside that I continued my own work. I had some paper yarns and started to experiment with them and to my surprise got in to some juried international exhibitions. Though I am interested in textile structures, or maybe because of that, I started to develop alternative ways to “weave”, to make something that was on the way to a sculpture but constructed with textile related structures. I was interested in how the structures keep coherent with irregular manner and that is still one of my interests beside the content of the works of course.

Mid 90’s couple of my colleagues encouraged me to use the technique of my brooches for bigger pieces. I had to develop my own style that would support the content I wanted to speak about. That took for a while and the path has been kind of balancing in my discomfort zone. Gradually I proceeded from abstract expression to more realistic.

More and more I hear that my works are not textile arts but art. Still, the textile structures and fiber materials are in the core of it. Whole of my life I’ve felt that I am an outsider and I don’t belong to anywhere and again I found myself in a position of being between some things. On the other hand, it gives wider perspective and space to move, I hope ?

Your sculptures, so fragile, delicate, drawing bodies with an ethereal physicality, half human and half vegetal, appear almost immaterial and intangible. Can you tell us about the relationship between matter and spirit as a theme in your artistic research?

Our spirits live in our bodies, it’s the closest surrounding for us. Our bodies transmit and create all kind of feelings and sensations to our awareness and wise versa. Our mind can cause physical reactions and similar events happens in nature. I am fascinated by this conversation of the matter and spirit and it’s very profound in our lives and in nature but how aware are we about it? I am surprised continually and maybe that’s why I am interested in it, I want to understand and learn, though the entity is so complex and ever changing that it’s impossible totally to understand. Still, as it has so strong influence in our lives, I want to try to understand and open contacts and communications about it with others. My work is mainly communication, with myself, with my surrounding, with the materials around me, with people around me.
In my mind the sense of touch is in a central position in recognizing feelings and textiles are close to us, touching us, every day, creating feelings. Structures are a system of touch. According to researches a human being needs a touch (from other humans) from the very early hours to develop and survive. The touch can be also immaterial, a touch of spirit. In my works I try to create structures that are constantly variating the state of touch and proceed that long the touch is about to disappear until it appears again.

Ready to Fly, 2013, copyright Raija Jokinen

Is there a narrative that you deliver to the viewer through your works?

I wish the narrative in my works would mix up with the experiences of the viewers. Also maybe open or bringing up some forgotten or unnoticeable things. I hope that my works could rather open a new path for the narrative than deliver some old one.

The Blue of, 2015, copyright Raija Jokinen

Your exhibition at the Domaine de Trevarez (Bretannia), which was held on the occasion of the 11th edition of Regarde d’artiste, is coming to an end.  Can you tell us about the works on show?

Curators in Trévarez want the artists visit the place and absorb the feeling of it before they start to plan the exhibition and that is very important part of the process. The place is wonderful and to my believe it makes a big impact to everyone visiting there. At least for me it was significant impression. I sensed kind of melancholia and sadness there, but also positive expectations to the future. Strong interiors can be also a challenge for hanging art works but I felt it was more cooperator in my process and I was fascinated how my works hide and show in the space. Hard wall materials are mixing with flax and you don’t necessarily know which is what materials or only shadows. I also want to emphasize kind of modest and small, human sized effects, instead of boldness which is more or less the character of the castle. I want to state the size of a human being and to equate human being to the materials of nature. To underline that we show up for a while and disappear again.

I made human figures that are partly transparent and partly blend to the walls. They might have some ties to the materials of the castle or look like dreamy images. They also disappear partly to the views from the windows. Like we all do. Like our thoughts do.

How has your work changed over time from your earliest works to your most recent ones?

I used abstract forms in my early career and gradually proceeded to more realistic expression that maybe shows more of the visual closeness of the drawn line and the material, fiber of flax, and painting like expressions. In my early years I was also thinking more of structures, but now I might think more of an image and textures and use fiber freely.

Besieger, 2015, copyright Raija Jokinen

What are the most challenging aspects you deal with when creating a work?

This is difficult to answer. Concerning the images of the human beings maybe the one that challenges me most is that I try to avoid using marks of sex, age and recognizability. I try to make faces that can be both men and women. Also challenging is that my technique is rather slow and I am impatient. I need to learn patience all the time.

What are the most challenging aspects you deal with when creating a work?

This is difficult to answer. Concerning the images of the human beings maybe the one that challenges me most is that I try to avoid using marks of sex, age and recognizability. I try to make faces that can be both men and women. Also challenging is that my technique is rather slow and I am impatient. I need to learn patience all the time.

Grey Thoughts, 2013, copyright Raija Jokinen

A work to which you are particularly attached?

It’s often my latest work. Because of my impatience, I often see only need of improving or changing in my older pieces as I’ve found some idea, I feel I should have used years ago. But yes, there might be some pieces that started some kind of new thinking in my own process and that makes them important to me.

A Treasure, 2017, copyright Raija Jokinen

Are there any contemporary artists that you feel are close to your research and language?

I always mention Marian Bijlenga (NL). I met her in 1992 in Alden Biesen in a workshop organized by Betty Boulez (BE) who helped me later to find water soluble material. That event was meaningful to me in many ways. I have kept in contact with Marian and we had exhibitions together too. I fell in love with her pieces but visually we are very different. It’s more or less her structures, clever visual rhythms and the use of shadows that appeal to me.

Planning a Flight, 2020, copyright Raija Jokinen

Future projects?

At the moment I am working with a commission for a public space here in Finland. That is much bigger than my normal pieces have been. Then, I was invited as a lecturer to a student project organized by the Art Academy in Bratislava in 2021 and I am happy that they invited us lecturers to participate to the final exhibition of the project too and that will be in Dec 2022-Jan 2023 in Bratislava. I am also working for a solo show in the Gallery Saskia, Tampere, Finland, in September 2023 and a solo show in Gallery Duetto in Helsinki, Finland in Sept 2024.

Hopefully there will be also some group exhibitions beside these.

Then I cooperate with Marika Szaraz for making Asia-Europe 5 tour to exhibit 2 final museums in Krefelt (DE) and in Drottninglund (DK). We‘ll also start the curating process for the 6th edition of AE.

On Summer term I try to find time to work in the garden as that is very important to me. It nourishes my thirst for information about nature and plants and let me to plan and realize slow visual changes in the landscape around me.

Maria Rosaria Roseo

English version Dopo una laurea in giurisprudenza e un’esperienza come coautrice di testi giuridici, ho scelto di dedicarmi all’attività di famiglia, che mi ha permesso di conciliare gli impegni lavorativi con quelli familiari di mamma. Nel 2013, per caso, ho conosciuto il quilting frequentando un corso. La passione per l’arte, soprattutto l’arte contemporanea, mi ha avvicinato sempre di più al settore dell’arte tessile che negli anni è diventata una vera e propria passione. Oggi dedico con entusiasmo parte del mio tempo al progetto di Emanuela D’Amico: ArteMorbida, grazie al quale, posso unire il piacere della scrittura al desiderio di contribuire, insieme a preziose collaborazioni, alla diffusione della conoscenza delle arti tessili e di raccontarne passato e presente attraverso gli occhi di alcuni dei più noti artisti tessili del panorama italiano e internazionale.